Just because shows like Breaking Bad reset our expectations on what a saga about drug dealing could accomplish, 2012’s Savages, which can be streamed on Netflix, offers a compelling cinematic adventure for avid fans of the genre.
Listen, we know that the recreational legalization of weed has changed the public’s perception of things, but 2012 was a different time, and Colorado didn’t do its thing yet. Savages is raw, violent, and shoves you face-first into the cartel world, and Blake Lively is stuck in the middle of it.
At its heart, Savages illustrates perfectly how a chosen family’s perseverance will prevail in the face of evil.
The film’s story centers on Ophelia “O” Sage’s (Blake Lively) relationship with both Taylor Kitsch’s John “Chon” McAllister Jr., and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ben Leonard. This dynamic duo of dudes involves Ben’s expertise in the field of botany, and Chon’s smuggled weed seeds from Afghanistan. By putting their heads and resources together, Ben and Chon cultivate a highly potent strain of marijuana that quickly garners a wide customer base.
Both Chon and Ben are in an open relationship with Blake Lively’s Ophelia, and things get complicated when they make it clear that they don’t want to be involved with the drug-cartel that is requesting their knowledge and continued services.
They are both willing to hand over their network as a means to get out of the drug business, but the cartel is quite insistent about retaining them for their obvious talents, and the potentially lucrative partnership that would come along with it. After orchestrating plans to flee to Indonesia, a wrench is thrown into the works in the form of Ophelia being kidnapped by the Cartel.
From this point forward, Blake Lively’s Ophelia is held hostage under the most horrible of conditions that one could imagine when Benicio del Toro is brought into the picture. Ben and Chon work tirelessly, and violently to rescue Ophelia from her torturous situation, while exacting revenge against the cartel that put her in such a terrible situation in this Oliver Stone directed film.
Oliver Stone’s direction, as well as Blake Lively’s performance has been praised despite some of the more negative reviews that suggest the film lacks self-awareness in its storytelling.
Savages is a difficult film to watch because it highlights the inherent violence and ruthlessness of the drug industry. At the time of its release, it put the thought in every viewer’s head that for every bag of marijuana that was purchased, there were an equal amount of Blake Lively type figures stuffed in a cage somewhere. But at its heart, Savages illustrates perfectly how a chosen family’s perseverance will prevail in the face of evil.
Commercially speaking, Savages earned $83 million in box office revenue against a budget of $45 million. Despite the film’s 50 percent critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert gave Savages a three and a half stars (out of four), and praised this Blake Lively starring film for its direction, and its overall treatment of the drug dealing business.
Ebert suggested that Savages did an excellent job with its ability to highlight the negotiation tactics that come along with black market business dealings that are very much in line with how legitimate businesses operated at the time of its release.
That is to say, Savages tries to accomplish in a couple of hours what other long-running series about the same subject matter try to illustrate through a slow-burn delivery.
In other words, while Blake Lively’s Savages shows us the ugly side of how a potential drug dealing partnership is rife with blackmail, closed-door conversations, and duplicity, its storytelling isn’t too far off from how large corporations use manipulation and intimidation tactics to gain proper footing in their respective industries. Oliver Stone’s direction, as well as Blake Lively’s performance has been praised despite some of the more negative reviews that suggest the film lacks self-awareness in its storytelling.
If you’ve worked your way through Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul before hearing about the Blake Lively starring Savages, then the film may leave a lot to be desired. While both of the former series offer an intimidating amount of insight into the inner workings of multiple drug cartels, and with their socioeconomic implications, you may find that Savages falls short in many ways.
But if you’re able to view the film in a vacuum, and realize that Savages clocks in at 130 minutes, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lot of flaws within the narrative.
That is to say, Savages tries to accomplish in a couple of hours what other long-running series about the same subject matter try to illustrate through a slow-burn delivery. Given Savages’ fast pace, heightened drama, and inherent need to resolve quickly, it’s a strong film that is worthy of your consideration if you have the stomach for some serious violence. Not only does Blake Lively carry the show, Oliver stone delivered the goods, and directed a film that will keep you at the edge of your seat from the title card until the closing credits start to roll.